Six-year-old Woonona boy Henry Hinchcliff is allergic to food.
The little boy suffers from a condition which causes his body to attack the food he eats and it is only in the last couple of years that he has been able to eat anything solid at all.
It has been a strict learning curve for his parents Mercedez and David, and now Mrs Hinchcliff is helping support other parents as vice-president of a national organisation called ausEE.
The organisation raises awareness of eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders and next month will run the Top 8 Challenge which asks participants to go for one day without eating the top eight most allergenic foods.
''When he was first diagnosed, we had to cut out all foods and we wondered whether he would ever be able to eat again.''
That cancels out wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, tree nuts, nuts, shellfish or fish for the day on August 8.
‘‘The Top 8 challenge is being run to help people understand what it’s like to live with such extreme food allergies,’’ Mrs Hinchcliff said.
Henry screamed day and night for his first 12 months before he was diagnosed with the disorder. All food and drink was then cut out except for a hypoallergenic infant formula and that is all he had until his parents started to slowly introduce foods when he was three.
‘‘An eosinophil is a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight off infections and parasites,’’ Mrs Hinchcliff said. ‘‘But with this disorder it also treats food like a parasite and attacks it.
‘‘In Henry’s case, and the majority of cases, it’s the oesophagus that’s affected, and it leads to inflammation, irritation, nausea and vomiting, stomach pains and choking on food.
‘‘When he was first diagnosed, we had to cut out all foods and we wondered whether he would ever be able to eat again.’’
From four years old, Henry’s resistance to some foods eased and he can now tolerate some fruit, vegetables and legumes as well as wheat and cheese.
He started kindergarten this year and his lunch box is not too dissimilar to those of his little friends – he can have a (yeast-free) wrap with cucumber, carrot and cheese and a piece of fruit.
Yet starting school also signals birthday parties, school discos and other communal events and it’s hard for a little boy when he can’t have a slice of cake or a chocolate crackle.
‘‘He’s really good about what he can and can’t eat – although he desperately wants to try cow’s milk or pizza,’’ Mrs Hinchcliff said.
Henry’s school has been informed about his condition and a group of parents has formed a committee to ensure that there are some foods available at school events for children with allergies.
Meanwhile Henry, who supplements his restricted diet with the special formula and also takes anti-reflux medication, still visits allergists regularly for testing.
Maybe one day he’ll even be able to enjoy that slice of pizza.